Note: If you don’t like cheesy, romantic stuff, then you won’t like this post. You’ve been warned.
I wasn’t going to write a post this morning, as we are off at a secluded cabin in the White Mountains, celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary. However, my right arm had other plans. You see, a couple of hours ago, I woke up. My stirring caused Chrissie to kinda wake – just enough to snuggle up against me with her head on my chest. For the next hour I laid there enjoying the closeness and thinking back about our lives together while she gently slept. It was tender, until my arm died.
Yes, my right arm betrayed me and went to sleep. I stayed a little longer, but, eventually, I had to get up. I did my best (failed) at not waking Chrissie, and came out into the living room to type some of the thoughts that were running through my head. For her, for me, for posterity?
Thirty-five years is a long time. For some quick perspective, some of the top movies on July 18, 1986 were Aliens, Top Gun and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (Not a bad week!) The top two songs were Invisible Touch (Genesis), and Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel) (Again, not a bad week!) Reagan was President, and a gallon of gas cost 89¢. Average new home price: $80,000, and a brand new Macintosh computer cost $2500.
I’ll give you a second to process those things, then we’ll move on.
How we met was the quintessential BYU marriage story. I like calling it “quintessential” because that’s a $5 word, and it’s much better than “cliche.”
In January 1986 I was a Junior at BYU. The first week of winter semester, I was at a ward opening social and my roommate came up and introduced me to a couple of girls that he knew from back home in Mesa, AZ. One of them was Chrissie. There were no fireworks or sweaty palms. I’m sorry to say that my memory of meeting her is vague. Oddly, she and I had a lot of friends in common, ran around in similar social circles, and had even attended some events at the same time – without ever meeting.
I was a Gospel Doctrine instructor in our ward, and Chrissie came to my class the next week. Again, no fireworks, but she enjoyed the class enough to mention it to a friend we had in common. She specifically pointed out that she liked my hair. (Yeah, I had good hair.) Our common friend made it a point to tell me what Chrissie said about me, and suggested I take her out.
Anyone who has ever been in sales knows what a “pre-qualified lead” is. It is when you approach someone, already knowing that there is interest. It is a way easier sale than going in blind. So I took advantage of the tip from my friend, and asked Chrissie out. Granted, I had to call her apartment and leave a message with one of her roommates to call me back – so I could ask her out. (Chew on that, cellphone generation.) She called back, we went out, and the rest, as they say, was kismet.
Here’s a little backstory: Chrissie and I were both 24 when we went on our first date. We had been immersed in the whole dating thing for years, and had little success. Neither one of us had gotten deep enough in a relationship where we had used the “L word.”
I dated a lot at BYU, but nothing ever clicked with anyone. When I liked someone, they weren’t interested, and when someone liked me, it was the old Woody Allen joke about “not wanting to belong to a club that would have me for a member.” I dated some really terrific girls, but never the girl.
The years before we met, I was at BYU, and Chrissie had a successful career as a legal secretary going, with a nice car, condo, nice clothes and expensive haircuts. It was a few months before we met that things were set in motion: Chrissie had been feeling prompted to walk away from what she had built in Arizona and head to BYU. Her bishop had the same prompting. So, she traded in her new Honda Prelude for a used Monte Carlo, packed it up and headed to Provo. Unbeknownst to her, I was living across the street from her new apartment.
We met the next week. I am forever grateful that she was prompted to move to Provo and come find me. I am forever in her debt.
One of the strangest things about our getting together is that even before we went on our first date, I KNEW that this time around, with this girl, it was somehow different. I found myself making plans for a future with her, and we had not even gone out yet. It was a different feeling than I had ever experienced. I found out later that she had the same experience. It was as if our spirits had already figured things out and were making plans – simply waiting for our heads and hearts to catch up.
Our first date was a success, and I broke the cardinal rule and called her the very next day and asked her out again. We dated every. single. day. for seven weeks, then got engaged. Three months later we were married.
And here we are. Now I know that some living prophets have managed to suck the romance out of young love – specifically President Spencer W. Kimball, when he said:
“Soul mates” are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.” (link)
Whatever. While it may be true that there isn’t an only one, I do believe that for many there is a best one. Joseph has his Emma, Gordon has his Marjorie, Brigham had his…nevermind…bad example.
Brad has his Chrissie.
While I look back a the dominos that needed to be lined up for Chrissie and I to meet at a time where we were both available, ready and responsive to the Spirit, it is obvious that God’s handiwork was on display. And for that, I will always be grateful to Him.
Anybody who knows Chrissie knows that she is gentle, kind, quiet and thoughtful. Essentially she is the Anti-Brad. The classic example of how opposites attract. This leads me to an important consideration:
I feel that one of the reasons for our successful and happy marriage was because of a little Divine Trickery. Whether it be categorized as trickery, or creative guidance, I don’t know, but it was effective.
During the first few years of our marriage, including Chrissie’s first pregnancy, she had a lot of health troubles. While she/we were going through them, I had recurring spiritual promptings that my time with Chrissie was going to be short. I was told repeatedly, through the familiar voice of the Spirit, that I would not have Chrissie for very long. No details, no explanation – just a dread in my heart that our temporal lives together would be short, but eternally we would be ok. I kept this to myself, but it was ever-present in my heart.
35 years later…apparently those fears did not come to pass. I gave a lot of thought to those feelings, and that dread that I experienced, and what the point might have been. I think I know.
As a dorky young husband, I was trying to figure out how to be married, what to do, what our roles were going to look like, what my expectations should be, etc. Because of my concerns, I know that I became a better husband, quicker, and with less resistance that I would have without the dread. It was easy to help with the chores. It was easy to disregard traditional gender roles. It was easy to put Chrissie first.
It was the perfect way for me to learn how to be a husband. Many of those lessons stuck, and became habits that have made our lives together better – even though the dread of an early parting has long subsided. (Now the dread comes from the other direction.)
In the same talk where President Kimball disses soul-mates he says this:
“The marriage that is based upon selfishness is almost certain to fail…But the one who marries to give happiness as well as receive it, to give service as well as to receive it, and who looks after the interests of the two and then the family as it comes will have a good chance that the marriage will be a happy one.
Total unselfishness is sure to accomplish another factor in successful marriage. If one is forever seeking the interests, comforts, and happiness of the other, the love found in courtship and cemented in marriage will grow into mighty proportions. Many couples permit their marriages to become stale and their love to grow cold like old bread or worn-out jokes or cold gravy. Certainly the foods most vital for love are consideration, kindness, thoughtfulness, concern, expressions of affection, embraces of appreciation, admiration, pride, companionship, confidence, faith, partnership, equality, and interdependence.” (link)
Thirty-five years is a long time when looking back. We have been married for 80% of our adult lives, and can barely remember what it was like before. When looking forward to eternity, 35 years is merely the blink of an eye. We have had our ups and downs, joys and sorrows, like other marriages, but the joys far outweigh the sorrows, the ups outweigh the downs.
I can’t imagine my life without Chrissie, nor could I imagine – or even desire – an eternity without her. We are still goofy in love. She is far and above the most important person in my life, as well as my favorite.
Hopefully she’ll be ok with me sharing such personal stuff, but hey, it’s her fault my arm fell asleep.